New directions opening up I could almost call myself an art historian maybe…(trainee level:-)
New directions opening up I could almost call myself an art historian maybe…(trainee level:-)
Cartoon of my Beautiful Career April 2015 – ‘Plus Ca Change’
Since I went on a career break in September 2014 and following my successful M.A. in Fine Art which I completed with a distinction in January 2014 I have worked towards a funded PhD.
This has not been a pleasant experience and after two years and 5 attempts to secure funding I have finally given up. It has cost me my job too.
The experience has taught me a lot about the nature of modern academia which is in some cases profit-driven, incestuous, corrupt and full of cronyism and back-biting.
I have not been successful despite having a reference from the Chicago Professor of Art, being featured in the Times Higher in an article about blurring the lines between art and research, illustrating James Elkins book Artists with PhDs, having several notable conference appearances and my first and so far only paper published as sole author in The Journal of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education as a ‘New Voice’. Finally in November 2014 I was commissioned by R.I.B.A. to write a poem for Edwin Smith Photographer at their London Gallery. This I did and included traditional Harvard Referencing in the final poem..a first for me and again blurring the lines between art and research:-)
Here the time-line of my glorious failure and the reasons I believe behind it.
Summer 2014 : Leverhulme joint application through BIAD unsuccessful but application was regarded as strong.
Winter 2014: Joint 3 Cities and V C Bursary application through my own institution. Not only not progressed but actively discouraged by the Head of Art Research in my own institution who did not like the fact I had illustrated the Elkins book and generally out-performed him along with a little matter to do with academic validity involving a previous Dean’s output. For legal reasons I cannot disclose why I was treated like this but when I resigned I did discuss it with HR and also stated as I my wife employed in the same institution I would rather resign than get embroiled in a long-winded union battle over it. I would also not be fighting the case as the individual’s father had been a high court judge….my chances of winning zero.
HR recognised I had a strong case with witnesses but as they also told me my area (drawing) was not supported as not seen as ‘strategic’ ( Textiles and Fashion is by the way) then I was basically flogging a dead horse..
During my career break I officially notified my Head of Art Research, who had by then taken on the post of the overall Head of Research in School and could thus ensure I received no further support, that I was no longer research active. He was delighted. Career wise this would eventually lead to a teaching only post ( NTU considering having salaries on this ticket to FE rates ..it pure business sense). I was effectively dead in the water re Research if I stayed and was also being asked to teach a subject I know nothing of..Animation..after being denied Graphic Design and Fine Art teaching unless dissertation supervision. I too Graphics for Fine Art and too Fine Art for Graphics or in other words..closed shops.
Hence my resignation and leaving at Xmas 2015 I had no choice.
The applications were very good by the way. I may re-purpose one day. I was on brink of submitting a chapter to a I B Taurus book on Phenomenology of Drawing that now gone.
Summer 2015: BIAD 3 Cities. To see if the treatment was just a local problem within NTU I applied directly through an institution that had previously supported me in the failed Leverhulme bid. I received no reply or feedback from them after applying and still have not received any at all it just disappeared. This despite contacting their art research admin. Cheers.
January 2016: Nottingham University- Horizon Award MRL. My application well written and gained an interview last week. Not offered funding. It may not have been best match and I have no regrets about applying. Set up had changed since a friend went on it and local community arts angle I bidding for seemed to have disappeared and been replaced by a corporate business led PFI type model. Only institution to treat me fairly to date though so bonus points for that! Also there was no age problem with the process as a 61 year old had been successful in past. However if you sending interns into corporate industry a crusty old left-wing artist not the best looking nor the most flexible option if you get my drift…
February 2016: Loughborough – same application was acknowledged as of good quality but unfortunately I did not make it through to the final three out of twenty-five for the one bursary. Why only one? Well Loughborough had chucked rest of money at their shiny London campus international funded Phds….so there you go. To just rub salt in wound they tried to trick me into accepting a ‘unfunded’ Phd by praising my proposal as of good quality unfortunately I know someone else in 25 and basically they chucked it at all candidates. Sprats and mackerels. Of course unfunded means giving them £30K minimum…amazingly generous offer when you think about it. I was impressed too. Cheers. Oh and deadline day of budget in case the new PhD Student Loans made me rethink..sharp practice worthy of a barrow boy there then…
So two years of hard work and effort down the drain and a hugely more cynical view of academia. Not to mention approx £20 K in lost wages.
I can honestly say that a lot of this treatment has to do with some of these institutions especially, in regard to AHRC funds, operating an ageist policy and they are too scared to even reply about it for being found out. Hence the evasive and nasty comments. The latest rumour I heard is that a cut off date of 40 is possible..I know 50 is too old as have heard rumours of a female candidate of that age being denied too. I found an online Scottish Government article where it stated no funding from AHRC would be given after 55 that seems about right and I do believe it come down since. The ‘mission statement’ of the research councils is ‘next generation’ no point funding the poor people who having to work until they are 70 now is it…..
The only challenge in obtaining a PhD has had nothing to do with my ability to do one and a hell of a lot to do with my age of 57 and my gender as an OWM ( Old White Male you know those oppressors from the white middle class). If I had been a woman in the AHRC East Midlands catchment I would probably have been funded by now. Let us leave it at that. The Dean I mentioned above was Head of an AHRC panel for a while …just saying…
As for my subject for Phd and its future the picture above is the book I will write despite all this and if I have to will self-publish.
If after that I turn out to be the British Ranciere after all all I can say to the above institutions is
‘Bye and Thanks for all the fish’
The same comment that led my resignation letter from NTU last September.
Farewell Academia hello reality.
So Shaun what are you actually doing now……
well..that’s an interesting question.
I currently have two PhD proposals submitted to Nottingham University and Loughborough. They both the same and the gist of the proposal is this.
I want to link two separate areas of art research together. Storicodes is an app developed at Nottingham University MRL ( Mixed Reality lab) which is an artier version of the rather banal QR code. It has been successfully deployed through large scale illustration ( NWS November 2015).
At the same time I became aware of the developments in digital embroidery especially through the work at NTU in textile and product design. I was assured by Dr. Sarah Kettley that there is no theoretical problem in creating lighting embroidery which could then be scanned by the storicode app.
Which Baldrick is where my cunning plan unfolds…
As a dead country star ( yes there a lot around) and folk performer/reviewer I aware that audiences falling and venues closing so would like to help counter that trend. An app that connected both consumers and artists and enabled connections would be great. So here we have a variation on the ‘added content’ idea. By wearing an embroidered suit whilst performing it may be possible for an audience member to focus the scanning app on a part of the design which lit up in sequence as songs played. This would trigger an illustration appearing (songbook cover/graphic novel page) as I performed. The audience member would only access this information at the performance. Thus re-establishing a live venue experience with added value. I keen on the idea of near-field content which limited and not ubiquitous. I have a plan for a museum tree that beams out archives..but that literally another story…
Finally and still in early stages of development I have friends who work with severe autism and it may be possible to develop child-friendly suits that enable communication. Music and rhythm can be the keys to unlocking those previously ‘blocked’ neural spaces. If I can get funding then that a route I keen to go down.
PhD funding is extremely competitive at present and I still hopeful. If I fail ( update July 2016..I did fail but only because I not keen on being a corporate intern which sad ). Then I may look at alternative ways of creating these projects such as Near Now at Broadway or ACE funding or even Crowdsourcing. Who knows.
But that is where I be at right now.
Here some artist’s suits for information….and of course Elvis Costello wrote a song called ‘Suit of Lights’
Back to where I started..literally…..first thought best thought?
I no longer consider myself to be exclusively in the fine art ‘drawing research’ area.
I am now seeking full or part-funding or a receptive institution to help develop this project.
And here my first mention of ANAMNESIA in 2010:
Apples and Snakes have posted the recordings of myself reading the Edwin Smith/RIBA commission.
In many ways this more Transmedia than poetry.
I deliberately use archive images, redundant technology and pseudo-referencing.
Inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph, ‘Camden Town Bedroom,’ Belcher’s poem uses vivid imagery to explore the theme of light. Visit the RIBA website for more info: bit.ly/13HN1tf
Read more about this App here : Microsoft Apps
It has been a career-defining week so until the dust truly settles I not making any comments about my withdrawal from the Creative Writing M.A. other than these reflections on what I think is happening to fiction these days in general.
It was only after withdrawal that I started to consider what it was that I had wanted from the course rather than what the course offered me. There was no problem with what delivered it simply wasn’t what I wanted..they sold bananas I actually wanted peaches.
The problem is that the field of ‘Extended Fiction’ which I am primarily interested in is at present almost homeless within academia in general. The NTU course is not the only one focusing on the principles of traditional fiction writing, screen-writing and poetry in categories that have been fixed since the notion of Creative Writing was accepted into the academy. Indeed one could even go back further to the battles to get English Literature accepted into the academy.
This constant seeking for ‘validation’ alongside the sciences means that, like fine art, a lot of conservatism has crept in alongside the wish to be taken seriously. This conservatism is especially prevalent now with REF status measurement . Creative courses move towards ‘acceptability’ through research worthiness but in my opinion it is stifling creative content and not just in writing.
The area of apps and fiction (see above) which mixing illustration and stories, online and offline graphic novels, voice-only novels ( a recent development..basically a recording of writer reading but no text sold) photo-embedded literature, visual-poetry, comics etc etc has hardly rippled the surface of ‘creative writing’ that country-wide has been modeled on a Stateside Iowa Workshop model first introduced in the 1960’s. A model that now 50 years old. We wouldn’t drive a car built in 1960 now so why drive a model of education that similarly dated?
There are various reasons for this. A lot of the embedded wisdom in that model is very good. Good writing is good writing and basic principles have not changed. What has changed is everything around that model. The stand-alone paper novel may not be as Will Self so clearly put it ‘as dead as the Dodo’ but it is it certainly one platform amongst many now. Self is one author trying to breathe life into its form in an arena where what we call literature or ‘the book’ may be fragmenting into a variety of platforms. The internet has changed the delivery, consumption and influence of the literature we read as comprehensively as the first paperbacks sold at W.H.Smiths (which trains then distributed around the country like a steel internet) changed our notions of literacy, communication and most importantly fueled universal suffrage and democracy.
To paraphrase Yeats
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold……
But the centre here is the reader. The reader is now the centre of endless opportunities be it social media, hypertext, embedded photos. Everything has become an endless ‘narrative’ which we making from our own lives via social media. To disrupt this ‘FLOW’ of trans-mediale imagery and text we have to purposefully disengage via Kindle or paper (the original kindle is a electronic metaphor for paper anyway) and place ourselves outside the ‘FLOW’.
If one turns one’s attention away from standard literature field to what I tentatively calling ‘Extended Fictions’ a whole new landscape emerges. This is a landscape that the millennial born digital natives are swimming in effortlessly. It is both image and text like graphic novels but maybe even more fluid and permeable once online. The graphic novel has its ‘paper’ retro adherents who regard online as a threat to its unique paper object-ness. They see its object-hood as the defining characteristic of paper-bound writing and in many ways this ‘thing-ness’ corresponds with contemporary crisis in the fine arts over authenticity and object value.
I spent much of last year investigating Charles Dickens and his illustrators as a key moment in the development of the ‘serialised’ novel. Indeed one could say he invented the modern magazine serialisation and therefore modern cinema and TV.
It is no coincidence that the first efforts to create working free-flowing multi-directional Apps from literature have used him as a model. The image above is a illustrated short story by Dickens from Microsoft. The image below is from the ‘Dark London’ app developed by the Museum of London and again drawing on both location tracking and multiple entry points to the narrative..all is FLOW..not uni-directional narration.
Unless modern creative-writing courses take on board THE FLOW we will have a version of writing presented as all writing just as a version of fine art currently dominates fine art. This is my opinion. It is not an opinion many in my institution would agree with that is for sure.
For me to not go with THE FLOW is to cease to go forward it as simple as that.
The future is here now and it looks very much like the past to me …we do not want to miss the train do we? Would Dickens be working on paper or the web?
I have posted photographs below from my father’s shed and my mother’s garden (under the post ‘Garden Films’) both of which became neglected as their illness progressed. Indeed they are a tacit reminder of how much their illnesses imobilised them both. In the process of clearing my family home for future sale I also had to confront another loss. The last time I had a viable painting space before gaining a new studio in 2011 in Nottingham (not counting a brief attempt to start again in 2005/6) was a garage at my parents last utilised in 1993. In it I left stored all my paintings from a ten year period in London (1979-89) and over the years at least half of the works had to be destroyed as eaten by mice (rolled canvases) and the rest on board stayed in garage. As the garage became dilapidated following my father’s death they too were affected. Finally in August this year I broke up the remaining large hardboard oils (some 8 feet by 4 feet)as a final act of closure….maybe on painting too. Here a sequence of photos showing their storage and final end. The white bycycle is my mother’s bike that I toured the downs on when completing a sequence of nearly 70 charcoal representational drawings on in 1991-2.
Artist and film-maker Patrick Keiller, will create a new installation for the Tate Britain Commission next year, it has been announced.
Keiller, who has not revealed exactly what the artwork will be, will develop the piece for the neoclassical Duveen galleries.
He said he was “delighted” to be asked. His work will be unveiled on 27 March.
Every year Tate Britain commissions an artist to “develop a new work in response to the Tate Collection”.
Artists who have previously taken on the Duveens Commission include Eva Rothschild, who filled the galleries with a huge black sculpture.
Over the past 30 years Keiller has made several documentary films, including The Dilapidated Dwelling and Robinson In Space.
“As someone most usually involved with images and the linearity of narrative, I’m delighted by the invitation to devise an exhibit for a sculpture gallery,” he said.
Tate Britain director Penelope Curtis said: “Patrick Keiller’s sustained interest in understanding the British landscape, and how it is represented, strikes a perfect chord with the Tate Collection.
“We are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to work with us in compiling a new installation which brings the old and the new together, and shows how similar concerns run through time.”